Will the World Summit Reinvent ICANN?
Date: Friday December 12 2003, @02:17AM
Topic: WSIS

Unexpectedly, ICANN and Internet governance emerged as one the the central issues of the UN-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). While the US government would have preferred not to have ICANN discussed at all, being satisfied with the status quo, three days ago it reached compromise language on an agreement to create a "working group" selected by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to "define Internet governance" and review many of the key issues of representation and structure faced back in 1998 - although this time, given the nature of the working group, the report would focus primarily on ICANN's relationship to national governments.

Is this just a clever way to defer and defuse intergovernmental pressures to take over ICANN? Or is it a mandate to reinvent it? It depends on whose spin doctors you talk to.

The basic language adopted:
"International Internet governance issues should be addressed in a coordinated manner. We ask the Secretary-General of the United Nations to set up a working group on Internet governance, in an open and inclusive process that ensures a mechanism for the full and active participation of governments, the private sector and civil society from both developing and developed countries, involving relevant intergovernmental and international organizations and forums, to investigate and make proposals for action, as appropriate, on the governance of Internet by 2005."

The ITU's Bob Shaw warned, "once we see all the different views submitted to the Working Group, it'll seem like we're right back at the Green Paper". A South African government source wrote a news release claiming that ICANN had been turned over to a UN agency. The US government on the other hand took a far more limited view of the decision, claiming that many governments were fundamentally ignorant of what ICANN does, nor of Internet governance issues and their relationship to identifier assignment, and just wanted a place to "discuss it." The source I talked to suggested that the WG could take up its entire 2 years just defining "Internet governance," as it has been asked to do. The view of some is that the WG will convene, issue a report, and that will be that.

However, the US had a similar view of the WIPO process back in 1998, when the White Paper invoking ICANN called upon the international organization to study the problem of domain name dispute resolution. That call in the White Paper turned into a mandaste to make WIPO into a global legislator of new trademark rights.

One victory of interest to Icannwatch readers is that the WG, though selected by the UN Secretary-General, will include representatives of civil society and the private sector and not just governments. The US in particular was concerned to make sure that no one could be shut out, as they often were during the WSIS process.

The working group would NOT be run by or part of the ITU, current speculation is that it would emerge out of the UN's paper-thin ICT Task Force, but no one really knows.

The jockeying to place people on to this Working group is already intense. More later, from your on-the-scene reporter.

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The issue isn't "the UN", but rather "who at all"?
by KarlAuerbach on Saturday December 13 2003, @03:52PM (#12744)
User #3243 Info | http://www.cavebear.com/
The question should not be "should the UN [or ITU] subsume ICANN?" Rather, the question should be "who is going to handle the necessary jobs of DNS and IP address stability?"

As I have pointed out in my blog entry "Will ICANN Reveal Its True Self To WSIS?" [cavebear.com] ICANN has been representing itself as focused on the narrow issue of ensuring that the internet's DNS and IP address systems are "stable". That representation is, unfortunately, not in accord with the real world in which ICANN has virtually no power over how the DNS roots are operated or how IP addresses are allocated.

This complete disconnect between ICANN's conjured appearance and its real-life substance causes businesses, internet users, and national governments to have concern that the DNS root and IP address systems are being operated by insular and relatively closed groups that have no accountability to the public. Fortunately at the present time these groups are well intended and highly capable. But governments, businesses, and internet users require something stronger than a fortuitious continuation of the status-quo.

ICANN has a long history of acts that are hostile to the inclusion of the community of internet users into ICANN's processes. It is no wonder that governments are skeptical of ICANN's ability to actually deliver a stable internet that takes into account the needs and desires of the community of internet users.

There is no doubt that a firm, fair, and capable hand is needed on the DNS root system and the IP address allocation system. ICANN is currently not doing that job.

So governments must, out of prudence and necessity, ask the hard question that the US Department of Commerce never faced - how can there come to be a truely accountable, publicly responsive, strictly functionally limited supervisory body over the core internet functions of DNS roots and IP address allocation?

[*] I hasten to add that in my opinion, there can be a multiplicity of DNS root systems, just as there can be a multiplicity of telephone directories, as long as they are consistent and do not clash.
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Re:Screw The UN
by vbertola on Friday December 26 2003, @11:32AM (#12774)
User #3435 Info | http://bertola.eu.org/
And why should an American corporation have any say over the management of a national ccTLD in Tanzania or China? Shouldn't it be managed by the people there and their government?

And who would represent the interest of international registrants in gTLDs? (Possibly there are more .com names owned by registrants outside of the US than inside.)

Uh, and by the way - since when is Spain a third world country?

--vb. (Vittorio Bertola)
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